Visiting Assistant Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures in German Lena Heilmann not only teaches German but is also a first generation German-American. Through annual visits to her family in Frankfurt, a bilingual childhood and time abroad studying in Heidelberg, Germany, Heilmann has lived immersed in German language and literature.
A Colorado native, Heilmann attended the University of Colorado Boulder where she received her graduate certificate in gender and women’s studies and her M.A. in German studies in 2008. She then received her Ph.D. in Germanics at the University of Washington at Seattle in 2014.
Growing up speaking both English and German has given Heilmann special opportunities in education. Living in Heidelberg for six months, Heilmann was able to use the time abroad for her dissertation research focusing on female authors around 1800.
“German literature is kind of where my heart and soul is,” Heilmann said. She is currently doing her own research on the portrayal of suicide in literature, with her focus on German literature from 1800, and how it is viewed through a gender lens.
“Studying literature, English literature, Spanish, German and Portuguese literature, I realized … I love talking about it in the classroom. It’s something I definitely wanted to continue and pursue on the other end as a teacher,” Heilmann said.
Knowing many Coloradans who have studied at Knox, Heilmann said they “spoke highly of the student body, describing the students as interesting and motivated, and a little bit eclectic in some ways.” Heilmann taught briefly at Cornell College and took a liking to the small liberal arts community setting, which influenced her decision to come to Knox.
Heilmann joined Knox this fall and will stay through the spring. She currently teaches German 101 and 201, but hopes to teach a more literature-based course in the future.
“The students seem very creative and I like that a lot,” Heilmann said. “Especially in language classes, we have the opportunity to think of some creative projects and the students really take the ideas and play with them.”